Whether you crave chocolate, peanut butter cookies, or a big dish of butter toffee ice cream, food cravings can spell disaster for a person trying to lose weight. Food cravings are often a sign of a diet that’s too restrictive – leading to excessive hunger and cravings for unhealthy treats. To effectively deal with food cravings, a more reasonable eating plan is needed that provides enough calories to avoid sending the body into starvation mode.
There are sites online where it can be determined exactly how many calories are needed to safely lose weight based on body size and activity level. It’s reasonable to aim for losing a pound each week which means cutting calories back by around 500 calories per day. Beyond that, food cravings can become a problem. Even worse, if calories are restricted too much, the metabolism can slow down – making it even more difficult to fit into those size six jeans. If you’re not restricting calories excessively and still have cravings, there are some simple steps you can take to help control them. Here’s how to deal with food cravings more effectively.
A 2008 study showed that aerobic exercise helps to suppress appetite. When male college students completed a sixty minute treadmill workout, they reported experiencing less hunger for hours after they finished. Aerobic exercise alters the levels of two appetite altering hormones – ghrelin and peptide YY which decreases appetite and food cravings well after the exercise session is over. Strength training exercises appears to have a much less pronounced effect on appetite.
One of the best ways to reduce food cravings is to graze on healthy snacks throughout the day. Obviously, you can’t graze on Ben and Jerry’s and expect to accomplish your weight loss goals. Forget the Ben and Jerry’s and cut up fresh fruits and vegetables instead. Add a low calorie dipping sauce and enjoy them whenever a craving hits. Include some snacks that are high in lean protein such as tuna fish or lean turkey since protein rich foods increase satiety. Never allow yourself to get hungry and you’ll be less likely to succumb to food cravings.
Stress leads to emotional eating and can increase cravings for high carb foods. If you’re an emotional eater, learn some new techniques for reducing stress such as meditation or yoga. When a food craving strikes, put your new skills into practice by assuming a yoga pose or closing your eyes and tuning out the busy, outside world. Chances are you’ll forget all about that craving once you reach nirvana. Another effective tactic is to write in your journal when a craving hits or call a friend to chat.
Depriving yourself of your favorite, higher calorie foods will backfire in the long run. Allow yourself periodic small splurges. If you love the taste of chocolate, enjoy a dark chocolate square once a day and include it in your weight loss plan. Another alternative is to make a healthier, “guilt-free” version of the particular food you’re craving. Learn to be satisfied with smaller amounts of high calorie foods rather than making your favorite foods completely off limits.
Stay busy to help keep your mind off of food. Sign up for a new class that takes you out of the house and as far from the refrigerator as possible. Become a volunteer or work for a cause you believe it. Channel your passion for food into another worthy pursuit. Not only will the cravings be less frequent, but you’ll experience a new sense of purpose and fulfillment.
The Bottom Line?
Stay active and fill up on healthy, lower calorie fare and those pesky cravings will gradually subside. The reward? You’ll feel more in control of the weight loss process and will rewarded with a healthier mind and body.